Editor's note: NFL.com analyst Chad Reuter will take a position-by-position look at prospects with the most to prove at this year's NFL Scouting Combine (March 3-6 on NFL Network) leading up to the event, continuing today with offensive linemen.
NOTE: Click on each player's name for a full combine scouting report.
Injuries are affecting the top of an already-thin group of offensive linemen available in the 2017 NFL Draft. Wisconsin left tackle Ryan Ramczyk (postseason surgery on torn labrum in right hip), Western Kentucky guard Forrest Lamp (ankle injury during Senior Bowl week), and Utah center J.J. Dielman (right leg injury suffered in October) could be the top players at each of their respective positions on some teams' boards.
Dates: Feb. 28-March 6
TV: NFL Network
Even if all three are out of commission for the combine, there are several offensive linemen that will jostling for position in the top three rounds of the draft. Here are five of those prospects with the most to prove during the week.
This All-American left tackle was a starter from Day One, which isn't a small feat at a program like Alabama's. Scouts already have seen that his anchor in pass protection is among the best they've witnessed in recent years. The question is, does he have the lateral agility to keep edge rushers from getting the corner? Tennessee's Derek Barnett found that corner regularly early in their matchup in 2016, though Robinson bounced back to shut Barnett down in the second half. Robinson's foot quickness and mobility in drills, as well as timing in short shuttles, will be monitored by teams looking for a blindside protector. If he displays only adequate foot quickness in Indy, it would confirm the feelings of scouts wanting to push Robinson inside to guard.
Measuring in at 6-foot-8, 361 pounds at the Senior Bowl actually showed a downward trend in Banner's weight -- he was pushing 400 pounds at one point in 2015. Getting into the 350-pound range for Indianapolis should improve his agility and show teams he's ready to take care of his body. If Banner is able to test well on top of that, general managers will be more confident in using a top-100 pick in a potential starting right tackle.
The former Seminoles left tackle was a two-time winner of the ACC's Jacobs Blocking Trophy. Though Johnson presents the length scouts desire at the tackle spot, his lean build and leggy movement makes some wonder if he will be able to handle elite edge speed and anchor vs. better bull-rushes. Showing explosion in broad and long jumps, as well as fluidity in pass-protection drills, will force teams to reassess their concerns.
Dawkins has been a stalwart for the Owls at left tackle, so his star was already on the way up. But at the Senior Bowl, Dawkins moved inside when asked and really got the hang of it as the week went on. If he shows top-tier athleticism for his size during the combine, it might make him the top interior lineman many teams' boards, as well as earn him a starter's grade at tackle.
Bolles will have to deal with questions about his troubled teenage years from NFL teams during team interviews at the Combine, and will need to overcome his age during the draft process (heâll turn 25 years old one month after the draft). If he can get through those hurdles, though, to show scouts his excellent mobility and sturdy base during workouts, teams will have no choice but to make him a first-round pick.
Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter @chad_reuter.
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